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Ref: Alert system installed for KY residents under dam

Computer World


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Reverse 911 system to warn residents of flooding from Ky. dam project
Todd R. Weiss

April 24, 2007 (Computerworld) A reverse 911 notification system has been deployed to some 17,500 households to notify residents of impending flooding if an emergency occurs during a $309 million rebuilding project under way at the Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River in southern Kentucky.

Jason Keller, deputy director of the Kentucky Office for Homeland Security, said the installation of the MissionMode reverse 911 system from InterAct Public Safety Systems in Winston-Salem, N.C., was completed about two weeks ago. That includes the entry of residential phone numbers for some 17,500 homes in four counties that might be affected by any accidental water release downstream of the dam.

About 40,000 people live below the dam, which created the manmade Lake Cumberland, he said.

The Web-based MissionMode software is being used as a protective measure in case of a dam collapse or other destructive event during the project, Keller said. In the event of an emergency, residents would get automated calls explaining what they should do to get out of harm's way. The seven-year reconstruction project, being done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is designed to repair seepage problems at the dam, which was completed in December 1950, according to a Lake Cumberland Visitors Guide. The dam was designed to provide flood control and hydroelectric power and cost about $80 million to build.

The seepage problems were classified recently by a Corps of Engineers survey as serious enough to raise questions about the dam's structure, making it one of several U.S. dams that have the highest risk for failure, Keller said. "If the dam were to breach, there are a lot of communities along the Cumberland River in southern Kentucky that would be affected" and flooded, he said. A major release of water from the dam could also flood the port of Nashville, roughly 100 miles south, he said.

The MissionMode software is now being tested, Keller said, and the state homeland security office is beginning a program to ask residents to log onto its Web site and enter additional emergency contact information, including cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses, so that residents can be reached in an emergency.

The software costs about $50,000 per year and was selected from a state list of products available at set prices. Because the department didn't want to delay the deployment, the MissionMode software was selected without seeking competitive bids.

One concern is making sure that local telephone lines have enough capacity to hold up if the system is used. "We're trying to work with MissionMode and InterAct but also with long-distance telephone carriers to open up the lines as much as possible," Keller said.

In addition to the reverse 911 system and telephone and e-mail notifications, residents will be notified of any related emergencies through local radio and television stations and other sources, he said. "We feel that it will be very effective," Keller said. "We feel that we'll be able to get the information out to the people who need it very quickly." Once residents are notified by the software about an emergency, they can send an acknowledgment back to emergency officials using the system.

An InterAct spokesman could not be reached for comment today.

Some 2,200 households and businesses in the most flood-prone areas south of the dam were also given free weather radios to give them instant alerts in the event of flooding, according to the agency.

Copyright © 2007 Computerworld Inc. All rights reserved.

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